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Citizenship Test changes to only further alienate immigrants

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Home Secretary Theresa May's announcement in July to overhaul the British Citizenship Test led me to consider how strongly I can boast about my standing within my country of birth. 

After some initial complacency, with surely only once outcome possible in my mind as I entered the test, it was soon replaced by sheer amazement at my lack of knowledge. Much head scratching and several shots in the dark later, I scored a very mediocre 11. Out of 24. Whilst this was a resounding failure, many of the questions posed to me I found puzzling, handing me no insight into life in Britain, nor aiding a potential integration into my new society. This has supplied me ammunition for my defence when UK border control inevitably knock down my door in a few minutes.

For example, I'm not entirely sure of the relevance of the number of under 19s currently living in the UK on an incoming British Citizen. Similarly, a true or false answer based around the location of the majority of immigrants to the UK in the 1980s left me entirely baffled as to the objective of this test. Not exactly tackling the big issues of life in 21st Century Britain. However, amongst the occasional question that can only have been plucked from a Google search engine, there is a basic structure of well directed questions, which when answered correctly, can provide a nugget of potentially very useful information to budding UK citizens. Categories such as what is required to apply for a job, who can receive free prescriptions and educational questions can only provide a good starting base for incoming immigrants in what is surely a tricky transitional period.

So, looking at the headline talk from May, a certain amount of encouragement could initially be drawn, as I provided faith she would look to banish these existing questions of little or no relevance or help to anyone involved.

Alarmingly, after reading further through her plans, I was thoroughly disheartened to notice an intention to "ditch sections about claiming benefits and the human rights act." In place of which she intends in inject a dose of British history to turn the test into somewhat of a history quiz on popular British figures and events through time.

Now, not to belittle the achievements of many great Brits and their influence of growing the country, but this new direction for the citizenship test completely evades the exact reason the test was introduced by Labour back in 2005. I am not aware of the exact number of times I have entered my local post office only to be quizzed on my most favoured Shakespeare piece or enjoyed a pint in my local pub with friends whilst chin-wagging over the events of the battle of Trafalgar, but I am certain I would only require one hand.

Furthermore, May proclaimed she wishes future citizens to "learn the first verse of the national anthem." Aside from the questions arising over nationality of these incoming immigrants, the outdated British anthem only exacerbates the main problem outlining these raft of alterations to the test. The subject of this new direction for the test does not at all replicate the mantra of 21st Century Britain and its multi-cultural makeup. Take the national anthem, its believed around a third of Brits are now atheists. Couple this with a figure of between 25-35% of republicans within the UK. This leaves the line "God save the Queen" with almost no traction when attempting to represent the best interest of Britain in its entirety in the year 2012.

Ultimately, the UK Citizenship test should have one top priority. Aid the integration of immigrants within their new society, so they immediately access key aspects of their community, such as the NHS, education and other welfare advantages. Unfortunately, as much as Britain loves to promote the great personalities of yesteryear, boning up on the life and achievements of the Duke of Wellington or Britain's greatest inventions will provide new settlers into Britain with none of the important information required to instantly provide a seamless blend into a new cosmopolitan society which Britain is such a pioneer of. Unless May is only intent of breeding the next generation of supreme pub quizzers I would suggest she should have a serious reconsideration of her plans.  

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